Tayron Guerrero couldn’t believe it had been almost two years.
But what’s waiting that long mean to a guy who would walk two hours daily through a snake-infested jungle after riding a single-engine boat just be able to play baseball as a kid.
Guerrero, the Marlins’ 27-year old, 6-foot, 8-inch rookie pitcher, is getting his first real shot at the big leagues this season.
On his first Opening Day roster, Guerrero made his Marlins debut with his first outing in the majors in 681 days since a brief debut with the San Diego Padres in 2016.
"I’ve waited a long time to get here and I’m really happy they’ve given me an opportunity," Guerrero said.
Guerrero struck out the first four Cubs batters he faced on Thursday - Ian Happ, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Willson Contreras - mixing two-seam and four-seam fastballs that touched 99 mph and was consistently between 95 and 98 mph.
Guerrero also used his slider effectively to change speeds on his strikeout pitches to Bryant and Rizzo.
"Everything I’ve been working on in the offseason has been working well for me and the proof was today and what I was able to do out there," Guerrero said.
Guerrero ran into some adversity later, yielding a solo home run to Kyle Schwarber on a 96.5 mph fastball after falling behind 3-1 in the count. His outing ended with three runs allowed (two earned) on two hits, but with no walks.
"That stuff happens," Guerrero said of the homer by Schwarber. "Still, I felt there were a lot of positives from this outing and I’m going to stick to what’s worked for me."
If Guerrero can command his fastball and secondary pitches effectively, he could follow a similar path to the one Jarlin Garcia took a year ago, becoming a reliable high-leverage reliever as a rookie.
The Marlins acquired Guerrero, 27, in the trade with the Padres in 2016 that also brought Andrew Cashner and briefly Colin Rea to Miami for pitchers Jarred Cosart, Carter Capps, Luis Castillo and prospect Josh Naylor.
His outing Thursday was not his first time on the mound at Marlins Park as Guerrero pitched for his native Colombia last March in the World Baseball Classic.
"I was really focused having the experiences from the past pitching here and in the majors," Guerrero said. "I felt great out there having another chance to throw in the majors. Despite the final results, I felt great out there."
In the Marlins’ 17-inning victory over the Cubs on Friday night - a game that produced 34 strikeouts but only 20 hits - relief performances by the Marlins’ Jarlin García (six innings, no runs) and Chicago’s Eddie Butler (seven innings, one run) proved to be crucial for both sides.
According to Elias, the game was the first in the majors that each team used a relief pitcher for at least six innings since a Marlins-Mets game on June 8, 2013, when Kevin Slowey pitched seven innings for Miami and Shaun Marcum went eight for the New York.
Prior to last night, the only instance in MLB history of teams playing a game as long as 17 innings in either their first or second game of a season came on April 9, 1969, when the Royals defeated the Twins, 4-3, in 17 innings in what was the second game of the season for each team (and the second in franchise history for the Royals).
The Marlins got some good news regarding right fielder Garrett Cooper as X-rays did not reveal any fractures on his right wrist.
Cooper was not in the starting lineup, but was available for Saturday’s game despite being hit by a pitch on his wrist in the fourth inning which forced him to exit Friday’s game.
Cooper has gone 1 for 4 with a walk and an RBI in his first two games as a Marlin.
“It was definitely a sigh of relief,” Cooper said.
Sunday: Marlins LHP Dillon Peters (1-2, 5.17 ERA in 2017) vs. Chicago Cubs RHP Jose Quintana (11-11, 4.15), 1:10 p.m., Marlins Park.
Monday: Marlins TBA vs. Boston Red Sox LHP Brian Johnson (2-0, 4.33), 7:10 p.m., Marlins Park.